Tag Archives: famous Marines

Leon Spinks

 

Leon Spinks is an Olympic gold medalist, World Heavy Weight Boxing Champion, and U.S. Marine.  He was born on July 11, 1953, in St. Louis, Missouri.  He dropped out of high school, making it to the 10th grade before joining the Marine Corps, in 1973.  The undisciplined 20-year-old didn’t adjust well to military structure and frequently fought with his drill instructors.   His boot camp experience lasted six months, because he was recycled during training.

Eventually, Spinks made peace with his new life, graduated boot camp and joined the All-Marine boxing team.  Within seconds of Spinks stepping into the ring for the first time as a Marine Corps boxer in the Area II gym aboard Camp Lejeune, coach J.C. Davis knew he had a rising star.

At the 1974 World Games in Cuba, Spinks captured the bronze medal as a light heavyweight.  He collected the silver the following year at the Pan-American Games, then won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

By 1976, he was arguably the best amateur boxer in the world, wining all but seven of his fights and registering 133 knockouts over a three-year period.

Corporal Spinks was discharged from the Marine Corps and made his professional boxing debut on January 15, 1977, in Las Vegas, knocking out Bob Smith in the fifth round for the victory.  He was 6-0-1 as a pro and had boxed just 31 rounds when he got the call to fight his boyhood idol, Muhammad Ali.

Ranked as one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, Spinks won the undisputed world heavyweight championship from Ali with a 15-round split decision on February 15, 1978.

Just two months later, Spinks was stripped of the World Boxing Council title for refusing to defend his belt against the No. 1 contender, Ken Norton.  Spinks, who still retained his World Boxing Association crown, chose to fight Ali again for a bigger payday, but the rematch didn’t go like the earlier fight; Ali showed up in top shape and beat Spinks in a 15-round unanimous decision.

For Spinks, there were other losses that came outside the ring, the former champion clouded his training with drugs and alcohol, which led to him losing an estimated $5 million in winnings.

Spinks initially retired in 1988 and took a job as greeter at National Football League coach Mike Ditka‘s restaurant in Chicago.  Financial problems forced his return to the ring in 1991.  Finally, in 1995, a weathered and beaten Spinks hung up his gloves for good with a professional record of 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws.

Spinks’s monetary troubles continued after his final retirement.  For a period, the former champ was homeless and living in a shelter.  He later found work as a weekend custodian at the YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska, while battling the onset of dementia and suffering from a traumatic brain injury because of his years in the ring causing him to slur his words.

During the 1990s, Spinks worked for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, winning its world title in 1992, making him the only man to hold titles in both boxing and wrestling.  In the late 1990s, Spinks was a headliner on a year long touring autograph show.

In 2009 Spinks was featured as part of the 2009 documentary Facing Ali, in which notable former opponents of Ali speak about how fighting Ali changed their lives.

As of 2012, Spinks lives in Columbus, Nebraska, with his wife, Brenda, and his service dog, a black lab named “Sammy.”

In April 2016, Spinks was inducted in the Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame, at a ceremony held at Goettge Memorial Field House on Camp Lejeune.

Three of Spinks’s sons have followed him into the ring, including his youngest, Cory, who was born just days after his father’s upset of Ali and went on to become a light-middleweight and welterweight champion.

Check out some of the Leon Spinks products at SuccessfulMarines.com/PX

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Chesty Puller

Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller was born on June 26, 1898 in West Point, Virginia.  His father was a grocer who died when Chesty was 10 years old.  He grew up listening to old veterans’ tales of the Civil War and idolizing Stonewall Jackson.  He wanted to enlist in the Army to fight in the Border War with Mexico in 1916, but he was too young and his mother wouldn’t give parental consent.

The following year, Chesty attended the Virginia Military Institute but left in August 1918 as World War I was still ongoing.  He was inspired by the 5th Marines at Belleau Wood He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a private and attended boot camp at the MCRD, Parris Island.

He never saw action in World War I, but the Marine Corps was expanding, and after graduating from recruit training he attended non-commissioned officer school and Officer Candidates School (OCS) at Quantico, Virginia.  He graduated from OCS on June 16, 1919 and was appointed a second lieutenant in the reserves.  With the end of WWI, the Corps experienced a quick reduction in force from 73,000 Marines to 28,500 Marines (only 1,100 officers and 27,400 enlisted).  Chesty was put on inactive status and given the rank of corporal.

Soon after, Corporal Puller received orders to serve in Haiti.  While the United States was working under a treaty with Haiti, he participated in over forty engagements during the next five years against the Caco rebels and attempted to regain his commission as an officer twice.  During his time in Haiti, in 1922, he served as an adjutant to Major Alexander Vandegrift.

On March 6, 1924, he returned stateside and was finally recommissioned as a second lieutenant.  He was then assigned at Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia, The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and with the 10th Marine Artillery Regiment in Quantico, Virginia, Marine Barracks in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in July 1926 and in San Diego, California, in 1928.

In December 1928, Puller was assigned to the Nicaraguan National Guard detachment, where he was awarded his first Navy Cross for actions from February 16 to August 19, 1930, when he led “five successive engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces.”  He returned stateside in July 1931 and completed the year-long Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He then returned to Nicaragua from September 20 to October 1, 1932, and was awarded a second Navy Cross.  Chesty led American Marines and Nicaraguan National Guardsmen into battle against Sandinista rebels in the Sandino Rebellion near El Sauce on December 26, 1932.

After his service in Nicaragua, Chesty was assigned to the Marine detachment at the American Legation in Beijing, China, commanding a unit of China Marines.  He then went on to serve aboard USS Augusta, which was commanded by Captain Chester W. Nimitz. Chesty returned to the States in June 1936 and was assigned to instructor duty at The Basic School in Philadelphia.

In May 1939, he returned to the USS Augusta, as the commander of troops for the Marine detachment.  They headed back to China in May of 1940 and he served as the executive officer and commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, until August 1941.  Major Puller returned to the U.S. on August 28, 1941.  After a short leave period, he was given command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at New River, North Carolina.

Early in the Pacific theater the 7th Marines formed the nucleus of the newly created 3rd Marine Brigade and arrived to defend Samoa on May 8, 1942.  Later they were redeployed from the brigade and on September 4, 1942, they left Samoa and rejoined the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942.

Soon after arriving on Guadalcanal, Chesty led his battalion in a fierce action along the Matanikau, in which his quick thinking saved three of his companies from annihilation.  The three companies were surrounded and cut off by a larger Japanese force.  Chesty ran to the shore, signaled the USS Ballard (DD-267)and then directed the Ballard to provide fire support while landing craft rescued his Marines.  U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Albert Munro was the Officer-in-Charge of the group of landing craft and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.  To date Munro is the only Coast Guardsman to receive the decoration. Chesty was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V”.

Later on Guadalcanal, Chesty was awarded his third Navy Cross, in what was later known as the “Battle for Henderson Field“.  He commanded 1st Battalion 7th Marines (1/7), one of two American infantry units defending the airfield against a regiment sized Japanese force.  The 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment (3/164) fought alongside the Marines.  In a firefight on the night of October 24–25, 1942, lasting about three hours, 1/7 and 3/164 sustained 70 casualties; the Japanese force suffered over 1,400 killed in action, and the Americans held the airfield. He nominated two of his men (one being Sgt. John Basilone) for Medals of Honor.  He was wounded himself on November 9, 1942.

Chesty was then assigned to be the executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment.  While serving in this capacity at Cape Gloucester, he was awarded his fourth Navy Cross for overall performance of duty between December 26, 1943, and January 19, 1944.  During this time, when the battalion commanders of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines (3/7) and later, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5), were under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, he reorganized the battalion and led the successful attack against heavily fortified Japanese defensive positions.  He was promoted to Colonel effective February 1, 1944, and by the end of the month had been named commander of the 1st Marine Regiment.  In September and October 1944, Puller led the 1st Marine Regiment into the Battle of Peleliu, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history; it was here that he received his first of two Legion of Merit awards.  The 1st Marines under his command lost 1,749 out of approximately 3,000 men, but these losses did not stop him from ordering frontal assaults against the well-entrenched enemy.  The Commandant of the Marine Corps, (General Alexander Vandegrift) had to order the Commanding General (Major General William H. Rupertus) of 1st Marine Division to pull the 1st Marine Regiment out of the battle.

Chesty returned to the United States in November 1944 and was assigned as the executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune and two weeks later he became the Commanding Officer.  After the war, he was made director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans, and later commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Chesty was again assigned as commander of the First Marine Regiment.  He participated in the landing at Inchon on September 15, 1950, and was awarded the Silver Star Medal and was awarded his second Legion of Merit for his leadership from September 15 through November 2.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. Army for heroism in action from November 29 to December 4, and he was awarded his fifth Navy Cross for heroism during December 5–10, 1950, at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  It was during that battle that he said the famous line, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”

In January 1951, Chesty was promoted to brigadier general and assigned as the assistant division commander of 1st Marine Division.  On May 20, 1951, he became the commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California until January 1952, and was then assistant commander until June 1952.  He then took over Troop Training Unit Pacific at Coronado, California and in September of 1953, he was promoted to major general.

In July 1954, Chesty took command of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina until February 1955 when he became deputy camp commander.  He suffered a stroke, and with 37 years of service he was retired from the Marine Corps on November 1, 1955 with a tombstone promotion to lieutenant general.

Chesty is the most decorated Marine in American history.  He is one of two U.S. servicemen to be awarded five Navy Crosses and with the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to him by the U.S. Army, his total of six stands only behind Eddie Rickenbacker‘s eight times receiving the nation’s second-highest military award for valor.

Chesty passed away on October 11, 1971 at the age of 73, in Hampton, Virginia.  He was an Episcopalian and parishioner of Christ Church Parish and is buried in the historic cemetery next to his wife Virginia Montague Evans, who passed away in 2006, at the age of 97.

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Lou Diamond

Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland “Lou” Diamond was born on May 30, 1890, in Bedford, Ohio.  His parents were Canadians from Belleville, Ontario.  His father was the youngest of the famed Diamond Brothers of the North-West Mounted Police.  He is descended from the Hudson River Valley AlgonquinMohican Diamond family of the pre-American-Revolution era.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in Detroit, Michigan, July 25, 1917 at the age of 27, listing as his previous occupation as “railroad switchman”.

Because of his incredibly powerful voice, which matched his 5’11” 200-pound frame, Diamond was once dubbed “The Honker.”  Many of his comrades at Guadalcanal considered him “a human air-raid warning system.”

Diamond often defied rules and regulations of the Corps, going hatless and wearing dungarees in open defiance of military dress regulations. He also had a goatee and relaxed grooming standards compared to other Marines.  (He even accepted one of his decorations in dungarees.) His self-confidence, even cockiness, was one of his outstanding characteristics. He considered anybody with less than ten years in the Corps a “boot”.  While he ‘dressed down’ recruits who sometimes instinctively saluted him, he frequently failed to salute officers who were less than field grade.

Diamond was offered many opportunities to become a commissioned officer and rejected them by saying, “nobody can make a gentleman out of me.”

As a corporal in January 1918, he shipped out from Philadelphia aboard the USS Von Steuben bound for Brest, France and saw action during World War I, with the famous 6th Marine Regiment in the battles at Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne.  Promoted to the grade of Sergeant, he marched to the Rhine with the Army of Occupation.

At war’s end, he returned to America, and received an honorable discharge.  But he soon found out that railroading and civilian life did not suit him.  On September 23, 1921, Diamond re-enlisted and saw more action in Shanghai, with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.  But the Sino-Japanese controversy, in Diamond’s opinion, was “not much of a war,” and on June 10, 1933, he returned to the United States, disembarking from the USS Henderson (AP-1) at Mare Island, California. By then he was a Gunnery Sergeant.

Diamond returned to Shanghai with his old outfit, the 4th Marines, ten months later; was transferred to the 2nd Marines in December 1934; and returned to the states in February 1937.  Two years after his promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant on July 10, 1939, he was assigned to the Depot of Supplies at Philadelphia to help design a new infantry pack.

Following the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Diamond shipped out to Guadalcanal with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, arriving at the beaches on August 7, 1942.  He was then 52 years old.

Diamond proved himself an expert with both 60- and 81-mm mortars, his accurate fire being credited as the turning point of many battles on Guadalcanal.  Among the many fables concerning his Guadalcanal service is the tale that he lobbed a mortar shell down the smoke stack of an off-shore Japanese cruiser.  It is considered a fact, however, that he drove the cruiser from the bay with his harassing “near-misses.”

After two months on Guadalcanal, physical disabilities dictated his evacuation by air against his wishes.  He was moved to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) and later to a hospital in New Zealand, where he somehow acquired orders to board a supply ship for New Caledonia.  There a friend ordered him back to Guadalcanal — the supposed location of his old outfit. Upon his arrival, however, Diamond discovered that the 1st Marine Division had shipped out to Australia.  Diamond made the trip, without orders, by bumming rides on planes, ships and trains.

But Diamond was destined not to see any more combat.  On July 1, 1943, he disembarked from the USS Hermitage (AP-54) at San Pedro, California, and twelve days later was made an instructor at the MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina.  After two years as an instructor, he was transferred to Camp Lejeune, on June 15, 1945, and joined the 5th Training Battalion with the same duties.  Five months later, on November 23, 1945, Lou retired fro the Corps and returned home in Toledo, Ohio.

Diamond was a member and frequent visitor of the Toledo, Ohio Jewish Serviceman’s USO Club, sponsored by the National Jewish Welfare Board in 1943, as indicated by his registration card coded as a NON-JEW with a hole punched in the top left hand corner.

His death at the Great Lakes, Illinois, Naval Training Center Hospital, September 20, 1951, was followed by a funeral, with military honors, at Sylvania, Ohio.  He was laid to rest at Toledo Memorial Park in Sylvania.

Actor Ward Bond portrayed Diamond in an episode of the television series Cavalcade of America entitled “The Marine Who Was Two Hundred Years Old”.  It aired on June 1, 1955; a copy has been located at the Marine Corps Museum.

The Filipino-American actor Lou Diamond Phillips was named after him by his father, an officer in the U.S. Navy.

Although Diamond is sometimes referred to as “highly decorated”, his only personal decoration was the Secretary of the Navy Commendation Ribbon, which later became the Navy Commendation Medal. His other awards include:

Diamond also earned the French Fourragère (Croix de Guerre 1914–1918) as a personal award, since he had participated in earning it with the 6th Marines.

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Drew Carey

Drew Carey was born on May 23, 1958, and grew up in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.  He graduated from James Ford Rhodes High School in 1975 and then  attended Kent State University.  He left Kent State after three years and enlisted into the Marine Corps Reserves in 1979 and served for four years with Headquarters and Services Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, as a field radio operator.

In 1985, Drew began his comedy career by following up on a suggestion by David Lawrence, a disc jockey friend who had been paying Drew to write jokes for David’s radio show in Cleveland.  The following year, Drew won an open-mic contest and became Master of Ceremonies at the Cleveland Comedy Club.  He performed at comedy clubs over the next few years in Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Drew first came into the national spotlight when he competed in the 1988 series of Star Search.  He then appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in November 1991.  His performance impressed Johnny, who invited Drew to sit on the couch next to his desk; this was considered a rare honor for any comedian.  In that same year, Drew joined the 14th Annual Young Comedians Special on HBO and made his first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.  In 1994, Carey wrote his own stand-up comedy special, Drew Carey: Human Cartoon, which aired on Showtime and won a CableACE Award for Best Writing

Drew has appeared in several films, television series, music videos, a made-for-television film, and a computer game.  He has hosted The Price Is Right since 2007 on CBS.  He is interested in a variety of sports, and has worked as a photographer at U.S. National Team soccer games, and is a minority owner of the Major League Soccer team Seattle Sounders FC.  Drew has written an autobiography, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined, detailing his early life and television career.

Please visit the SuccessfulMarines PX to purchase Drew Carey products.

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Harvey Keitel

Harvey Keitel was born on May 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Miriam and Harry Keitel, Jewish immigrants from Romania and Poland, respectively.  His parents owned and ran a luncheonette and his father also worked as a hat maker.

Harvey grew up in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, with his sister and brother.  He attended Abraham Lincoln High School and Alexander Hamilton Vocational School, but dropped out to join the Marines in 1956.  While serving with 2nd Marine Division as a rifleman fire team leader, his service took him to Lebanon, during Operation Blue Bat.

Harvey’s time in the Marines made a huge influence on his life and helped shape many of his perspectives.  During training at night combat school, he mentioned being afraid of the dark.  An instructor told him that everyone is afraid of the dark because people are afraid of the unknown, and he would teach him how to handle it. Harvey took the lesson to heart and extended it to other areas of his life over the years.

After his discharge he returned to New York and worked as a court stenographer for several years and was able to support himself before beginning his acting career when he joined the New York’s Actors Studio.  His persistence paid off, and he began landing roles in live theater.

His film career took off with Martin Scorsese‘s 1967 “Who’s That Knocking at My Door.”  The actor and director hit it off, and Harvey returned in future Scorsese films.

Harvey’s film career now has 150 credits as an actor, and five as a producer, spanning from 1966 – present day, he is still active in Hollywood and working on several projects, with his latest films including “Chosen“, “The Ridiculous 6“, and “The Comedian.”  He credits time serving the Marine Corps for his success and professionalism within the film industry.

Check out the SuccessfulMarine PX for Harvey Keitel’s films and other products.

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Bea Arthur

Beatrice Arthur, originally Bernice Frankel was born on May 13, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1933, the Frankel family relocated to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents operated a clothing shop.  She attended Linden Hall School for Girls, the oldest girls’ boarding school in the United States.  She then enrolled at Blackstone College for Girls in Blackstone, Virginia, where she was active in the drama program.

Her employment after attending Blackstone College for Girls, included working as a food analyst at a Maryland packing plant; a hospital lab technician, and an office worker at a New York loan company.  She was due to start another job when she heard that the Marine Corps had opened enlistments to women.   She decided to join, with hopes of going into ground aviation. She went to basic training in March 1943, at the age of 21.

During her service she worked as a typist and a truck driver and had assignments at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C., a Navy air station in Virginia and Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina.  A year into her enlistment, she married a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, in a ceremony presided over by a city judge in Ithaca, New York.  She then formally had her named changed to Bernice Aurthur.  She completed her two years of service, achieving the rank of staff sergeant before being honorably discharged in September 1945.

After her discharge she changed her name to Bea Arthur, as she started her career in acting.  In 1947 she studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator.  Bea began her acting career as a member at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.

She continued with acting roles on and off Broadway throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  She was then invited by Norman Lear to guest-star on his sitcom All in the Family, as Maude Findlay, an outspoken liberal feminist.  Her performance eventually led to her own series as the character and earned her several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, including an Emmy win in 1977, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Her acting career included other less known television shows and movies until she landed a role in 1985 for The Golden Girls, the series remained on the top-ten with ratings, for six out of the seven seasons.  Baa’s performance led to several Emmy nominations over the course of the series and an Emmy win in 1988.

In 1992, she decided to leave The Golden Girls.  She made several guest appearances on shows and toured in her one-woman show, titled An Evening with Bea Arthur, as well as And Then There’s Bea.

Bea died from cancer, at her home in the Sullivan Canyon section of Brentwood, California on April 25, 2009.   She is survived by her two sons and two granddaughters.

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